Monday, February 23, 2009

Confession makes a comeback


I've always thought that confessional booths are much better than reconciliation rooms, especially for the beginner. By the way, we have a booth at St Alban's. Now it's time to get shriven. I made my confession last Sunday, are you ready to make yours?

By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN
Published: February 20, 2009

STAMFORD, Conn. — The day after Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni was installed in June 1998 as the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church here, he walked through the quiet sanctuary, appreciating the English Gothic grandeur and tallying all the repairs it required. One particular sight seized him. The confessional at the rear of the pews had been nailed shut. The confessional in the front, nearer the altar, was filled with air-conditioning equipment. And these conditions, Monsignor DiGiovanni realized, reflected theology as much as finance.

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, the Catholic Church began offering confession in “reconciliation rooms,” rather than the traditional booths. Even before the setting changed, habits had. The norm for American Catholics was to make confession once a year, generally in the penitential period of Lent leading up to Easter. Monsignor DiGiovanni, though, soon noticed that there were lines for the St. John’s reconciliation room the only time it was open each week, for two hours on Saturday afternoon. So within his first month as pastor, he pried open the door to the rear confessional, wiped off the dust of decades and arranged for replacing the lights, drapes and tiles.

Then, in the fall of 1998, Monsignor DiGiovanni rolled back the clock of Catholic practice, having St. John’s priests hear confession in the booths before virtually every Mass. By now, as another Lent commences next week with Ash Wednesday, upwards of 450 people engage in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as confession is formally known, during 15 time slots spread over all seven days of the week. Confessions are heard in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

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3 comments:

Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

Being Byzantine, I prefer that way, kneeling before the Icon of Christ. The few (Continuing) Anglican confessions I have witnessed were done in similar manner. the person kneeling at the altar rail, the priest seated opposite on the other side. I thought this was general Anglican/Episcopal practice. Seemed good to me. Never liked those black booths and the idea of a 'reconciliation room' just seemed silly.
Just an outsiders observation and opinion.
Great article, though.

Anonymous said...

For me, the confessional actually brings more freedom...confessing at the Altar Rail or in the Rector's office distracts me...

BDP <><

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